This year marks my 21st season as a strength coach. I have been at every level imaginable. I've had some high highs and some low lows. As I reflect on the New Year, I would like to share some pearls of wisdom that I have come across during that time.


First and foremost, I would like to tell you to go down this path only if you love it. If you want to be a coach for any reason—and you have to know your reason—do it because you love it. The hours are long, the bullshit is piled high, and you are going to feel like you miss out on way too much if you’re not fully invested in this profession. If you love it then it’s not work, and we can get to the next part: fun. If you love what you are doing, have fun doing it. I don’t mean being a clown, but enjoy the coaches, players, administrators, maintenance, and support staff. Ultimately, enjoy the people you come in contact with at work. Things will go a lot better and smoother if you do. Keep your eyes on the prize — and if you’re working and have a job, then you've already claimed it! Trust me, having any strength job is like winning a prize.

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Do the best you can wherever you are; treat every job and every task like it is your dream job. Do that day in and day out and it will be. We all have jobs in our minds that we think we want or would love to have, but you are not going to get that job if you don’t take care of the one you are at. Like I have said before, college athletics is about two degrees of separation from the top to the bottom, so keep building your brand to the best of your ability.


One of the other constants that has never changed is that the athletes want to be pushed and the pretenders don’t. Not everyone wants to pay the price to really get better. Everyone wants to be great, but not everyone wants to pay. As Coach Holtz used to say, “Everyone wants to be great when the lights are on and the band is playing, but what are you going to do when the lights are off and no one is looking?” Some players on your team just don’t want to do it.

It took me a long time to grasp that it takes some athletes more time than others to grow up. This was hard for me at the beginning of my career because, let’s face it, we all want our athletes to walk in the door motivated, mature, and ready to go on day one. I can tell you it doesn’t happen, just like athletic maturity takes longer for some. I don’t change the standard for those guys. They just do more than the others until they get it — until they understand that 3:00 is 3:00 and that running through the cone is running through the cone. I will be the first to tell you that, like an idiot, I would write off kids after their first workout, labeling them not tough enough and that they didn't want it even though I didn't really know a damn thing about them. Then a year later, one of those guys would become one of the best players on the team.

strength coach meet and greet

This is also true with physical development. Yes, we all get freaks of nature on the team that come in big and strong and fast, but it is always a select few. You must develop the others. I know this sounds simple, but I have worked or talked with strength coaches who were great players or genetically gifted that had a hard time grasping why some people were not just super strong from the beginning. With some, it takes time.


The next part I would like to talk about is enjoying the diversity. You should enjoy the diversity of the players, coaches, and location of wherever you are. Embrace it. I have been all over the country with this job, and every area has been different. Find a way to make it special and enjoy what it has to offer. Sometimes we get so caught up in work that we don’t pay any attention to what is around us. This is especially important if you have kids. If your area has a zoo, take them to the zoo! National Parks, theme parks, great restaurants — you name it, take them there. This way you will always be able to look back with a positive spin on where you were, regardless of the outcome of where you work.


Make sure you marry the right person who understands what this profession really entails and what you really do. I was lucky enough to do that, and it has made a world of difference. Be sure to also meet and learn the names of the other coaches' wives and children. This profession is tougher on coaches' wives than anyone else, and only they really understand what it is like. In-laws or friends outside the profession have no idea. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, "Yes they are getting married in September, why can’t you just take a few days off and come to the wedding?” Coaches and their families come and go, but you should do what you can to stay in touch. Even after 15 years, we are still great friends with families we have worked with in the past. Be sure to also help out new coaches and their families when they start a job at your place. Sharing a list of doctors, supermarkets, and good neighborhoods is a great way to help them out in uncertain times. It will pay off in the end.

Do Your Best, No Matter What Others Want

The last piece of advice I would like to give is to make sure you do the best job you can where you are. Remember, we will all get fired, sometimes due to something that we did or did not do. It is just the way this profession works. If you leave a job on your own or not, you should be able to look back and say you did your absolute best every day. It may not have been what this person or that person wanted, but as long as you did your absolute best, so be it. We will all make mistakes, but if you keep learning from them and continue to get better you will have no regrets looking back. And that is worth its weight in gold.